App Aims to Satisfy Real-Estate Lust

App Aims to Satisfy Real-Estate Lust
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This story appears in the December 2012 issue of . Subscribe »

HomeSnap, a free iPhone app created by Washington, D.C.-based online broker Sawbuck Realty, is aiming to satisfy your real-estate lust. With the app, users can snap a photo of nearly any home in the U.S. and instantly view details such as property history, lot size, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, estimated price and nearby schools. All available info is culled from tax records, the Multiple Listing Service, Census demographics and other public data. According to Guy Wolcott, co-founder and CEO of Sawbuck, the patent-pending process is 90 percent accurate.

Wolcott says HomeSnap was inspired by the music-identifying app Shazam. "It gave you this emotional reward when you used it that was above and beyond its utility," he says. "I wrote in my notebook: Shazam for homes--take a picture of any home to find out all about it."

His app, which debuted in March at the SXSW Conference, has been downloaded 300,000 times. Revenue comes from an undisclosed fee whenever the app connects a house-hunter to a HomeSnap partner agent. Sam Barbieri of ReMax in Upper Marlboro, Md., says he tells clients "to use this app when they're out and about, snap the photos … and they can send them directly to me. That way I can tag them and better know what they're in the market for."

In August Sawbuck raised $3.5 million in funding led by Steve Case's Revolution Ventures. An iPad app should be available by the end of the year, and an Android version is scheduled for release by March 2013. Wolcott is also exploring licensing opportunities with mortgage brokers, commercial real-estate firms and tourism-based organizations.

Until then, his goal is to make HomeSnap synonymous with home-buying--and the voyeuristic thrill of knowing how much any home is worth. Wolcott acknowledges that the majority of non-realtors using the app aren't necessarily looking for a home to purchase. They use it to satisfy their curiosity: snapping photos of friends' houses or random mansions to learn more about them. 

"You have to believe we're in it for the long haul," Wolcott says. "We're not trying this to make money next week. We're using this to become a brand that consumers think of in terms of real estate in the mobile world."

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